Beyond her 15 Grammys and multi-platinum records, there’s a reason Alicia Keys was chosen to be a coach on The Voice. That warm, wise tone she uses to speak to her mentees? It’s not an act.
During our phone call, hours before the show’s finale on Tuesday, Keys revealed she was feeling “extremely confident” about the turnout. Later that night, her finalist Chris Blue won. Keys won’t be returning to the show, but she’s got plenty of things to focus on, from writing new music (her “best yet”), to being a mom to two boys and her committed role as an intersectional activist. Last year, she inspired women to be body positive when she stopped wearing makeup; but her activism is more than skin-deep. This is a woman who spoke at the Women’s March, made a short film about the refugee crisis and is consistently vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement.
On June 3, she’ll perform at the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic—and although the native New Yorker admits she doesn’t play the sport (“I’ve ridden a horse before and it’s never gotten above a very slow walk,” she joked), she’s proud that the event partnered with her Keep a Child Alive organization, which supports children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. “I always feel excited when I can do something that’s about what I believe in,” Keys said.
Before the event, Keys opened up to BAZAAR.com about her upcoming music, what she’s learned from going makeup-free and what she’s up to this summer.
Keys loves spending summer in New York…
“Gosh, I love to swim. I’m a big beach person. I just love the outdoors. I love New York summers, they’re my favorite. I just think they’re so beautiful. There’s this kind of thing in the air. It does get super hot, humid and sticky and nasty. Then, it turns seven or eight o’clock and then this beautiful New York cool breeze comes in. It’s still warm enough to be in your T-shirt. You don’t have to worry about having a jacket. The city is a whole different place. Everywhere, it’s alive. Everybody is loud and noisy and reckless and it just gets even more colorful.”
…and reveals her ultimate summer playlist:
“I’m definitely rocking the Drake album, Kehlani’s album, I’m loving H.E.R., she’s super dope. I’m loving Solange. I’m just feeling all the good vibes.”
Her last episode of The Voice was really special:
“My artist Chris Blue is just incredible. He has taken the show and really shown what a real artist he is and how incredible he is to be able to handle the pressure and energy and all the crazy mix and just shine every time. He has really shown who he is, and he has evolved and come to a place where all of us would hope to get to, on a platform like this. I’m just taking it. I’m in gratitude, I’m excited.”
Though she played coach for two seasons, she’s learned a lot, too:
“What I just continue to remember is that we all have the ability for greatness and all we have to do is believe it, and want it, and know that we deserve it. And then, we can do it. Anything. Really, just that simple and just that hard. So if there’s anything that I’ve been reminded of, and just talked about and shared, it’s success.”
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Keys says she’s “definitely” working on new music:
“It’s super sick. The best music I’ve made yet, which fortunately is going to happen every time I make something. That’s what I’m claiming. It’s actually almost at least more than halfway done already, so that’s going incredibly well and of course, my passions for activism and the world around us remains stronger than ever, just as a student of what’s going on and how to continue to be a positive part of the changing of the things.”
She’ll intertwine activism with songwriting, much like she did on her 2016 album, Here:
“On my album Here, that’s the first time that I’ve really understood how I could put all the things that were happening in the world and in my life and in our lives as just human beings into one body that was just so powerful and really had a perspective. That was an opening for me and I think that naturally, there is just so much to talk about. I don’t see me getting quiet anytime soon.”